What is the Easiest Math in College?
We’re running the mile today, your gym teacher announces. You consider a range of possibilities that include a dramatic ankle twist, the tried-and-true “forgot my sneakers,” and the construction of a large yet surreptitious HELP message with the aim of signaling a passing biplane to swoop down and cart you off to safety. Just as running the mile can feel like a veritable torture chamber for the non-athletically-inclined, math courses can feel similarly painful to students with a propensity for the humanities. If you’re majoring in a STEM field, or pursuing a pre-professional track like medicine or dentistry, math and science courses are inevitable. However, if you struggled through math in high school–and plan to stay at least fifty feet away from any mention of a proof for the rest of your life–you have options. Let’s investigate: what is the easiest math in college?
Do you have to take math in college?
Since the old “you better learn this stuff–it’s not like you can carry a calculator everywhere you go!” rationale no longer holds water, many non-math lovers might wonder why they even need to take math in the first place. After all, it’s unlikely that careers in fields like acting, writing, or teaching will require in-depth calculus knowledge.
However, most colleges do not require non-STEM majors to take pure math courses like calculus, geometry, or algebra. Instead, they mandate one or more math-related courses that typically fall under the “quantitative reasoning” umbrella. Essentially, quantitative reasoning courses help students develop the ability to use mathematics to solve real-world problems.
In “Quantitative Reasoning: The Next “Across the Curriculum” Movement,” Susan Elrod argues that students should be able to practice their skills in interdisciplinary contexts. In line with this recommendation, and in an effort to boost quantitative reasoning competency among their graduates, colleges typically offer a wide range of courses that satisfy math-related requirements. For example, prospective academic researchers might want to take a data analysis course. Graphic designers may opt to learn a programming language. In sum, college math requirements aren’t nearly as rigid as they initially seem.
What is the Easiest Math in College – Major Considerations
Most humanities departments–like history, English, and philosophy–won’t require any math within the actual major. Social sciences majors–like economics or psychology–typically require 1-2 statistics or data analysis courses, particularly in relation to research.
However, the courses required for your major are different from the courses required for a degree. You can learn more about this topic in our degree vs. major blog post.
Bottom line: do you have to take math in college? Usually, yes. Although some schools won’t require math at all, most will require one to three math classes as part of their core or distribution requirements. Consequently, you’ll want to research those requirements in order to determine what will be expected.
What is the Easiest Math in College – Course Options
You’ve reviewed your college’s distribution requirements, and it looks like two quantitative reasoning courses are required for graduation. Now what?
If you didn’t despise math that much and are considering a more traditional option, calculus is typically the base-level offering. It’s rare that colleges will offer any pure math options that are simpler than calculus. This is because most students will have taken courses like algebra and precalculus in high school. The ones that do, like Michigan, often make it clear that such courses are remedial in nature. That said, some schools offer special calculus courses for non-math majors.
However, if you’d like to avoid traditional options, what qualifies as a math or quantitative reasoning course may surprise you. Since there is no faster way to derail the learning process than to force students to engage with material that they see no value in, particularly at the collegiate level, universities have adapted accordingly. Therefore, if you’re a humanities major looking to fulfill quantitative reasoning and/or math-related distribution requirements, you’ll find a wide range of nontraditional math courses available in subjects like astronomy, sociology, economics, and environmental science. Your clearest path to an easy and practical math course lies in researching these options.
Likewise, STEM majors might find themselves equally surprised about the variety of humanities-related courses available. For instance, University of Rochester math majors can opt to satisfy the upper-level writing requirement in several ways. Courses include History of Mathematics or Transition to Advanced Mathematics, which focuses on the ability to read and write proofs.
What is the Easiest Math in College – Examples
Do you have to take math in college? Keep scrolling to learn more about the math-related distribution requirement and associated course offerings at ten colleges.
Math-centric Distribution Requirements: None.
There are no math courses required at Amherst (yes, you read that correctly!). That said, non-math major students who would like to explore the subject can choose from a variety of tailored options. Geometry and Relativity, Calculus with Algebra, and Calculus with Elementary Functions are all designed for non-majors. In addition, students might consider courses like Mathematical Modeling; Voting and Elections: A Mathematical Perspective; and Mathematical Reasoning and Proof.
Related: How to Get Into Amherst
Math-centric Distribution Requirements: One Quantitative and Formal Reasoning course.
Introductory pure math courses include Linear Algebra and Calculus I. However, if students are only trying to satisfy the Quantitative and Formal Reasoning distribution requirement, they can choose from a range of courses in a multitude of departments. One option is Visualizing Data: Design, Power, and Truth, offered by the environmental studies department. Moreover, Thinking Sociologically with Numbers is offered by the sociology department.
Related: Best Liberal Arts Colleges
Binghamton University (SUNY)
Math-centric Distribution Requirements: One Mathematics/Reasoning course.
Do you have to take math in college? Binghamton says yes, but with lots of flexibility. Binghamton offers an array of courses in the mathematics, anthropology, and philosophy departments, among others, that satisfy the math/reasoning requirement. Math classes include Mathematics in Action, which covers real-world applications, Elementary Statistics, and Calculus for Business and Management.
Other types of courses include Methods of Reasoning and Elementary Logic, both offered through the philosophy department. There is also Statistics in Anthropology as well as Introduction to Social Work Statistics, among others.
Related: How to Get Into Binghamton University; The Public Ivies
What is the Easiest Math in College – Continued
Math-centric Distribution Requirements: One mathematics or computer science course.
Introductory math courses include Calculus I and Calculus I-A. Calculus I-A is “intended to introduce students to the subject” and is therefore the easier option. From there, most math courses require some type of prerequisite. Similarly, there is only one computer science option that does not have a prerequisite: Introduction to Computer Science.
Related: Best Colleges for Biology; Best Colleges for Psychology
Math-centric Distribution Requirements: One math or computer science course.
What is the easiest math in college? At Georgetown, there are many possible answers. The math department offers several courses for non-majors. One such option is Mathematics in Society, which delves into mathematical approaches in relation to conflict resolution and decision-making. There are also introductory calculus and statistics courses.
In regard to computer science, Data Analytics and Visualization is “intended for non-majors seeking a general overview and practical knowledge on handling, analyzing, and visualizing data for better decision making.” Introduction to Computer Science: Python is geared toward non-majors as well. Finally, Networks, Crowds, and Markets deals primarily with social connectedness, graph theory, and game theory. It has no prerequisites.
Related: How to Get Into Georgetown
Math-centric Distribution Requirements: One course that satisfies the Quantitative Reasoning with Data requirement.
For students wondering “do you have to take math in college?” Harvard is transparent with the answer. Accordingly, they maintain a list of QR courses that do not have prerequisites. These include courses from a range of departments, including linguistics, government, and computer science. For example, students can choose from Celestial Navigation, Great Ideas in Computer Science, and Sounds of Language.
In addition, Introduction to Calculus is the most basic traditional math option. Introduction to Functions and Calculus I will be more challenging and cover a greater amount of material.
Related: How to Get Into Harvard
Math-centric Distribution Requirements: 2 classes in mathematical sciences. One can be a course equivalent (i.e., AP or IB credit).
Tufts offers a wide variety of courses for non-math majors. Foundational classes offered by the math department include Introduction to Finite Mathematics (requires geometry and algebra) and Introduction to Statistics. Introduction to Calculus is more basic than Calculus I. In addition, more creative courses include Mathematics in Antiquity (history of mathematics in ancient civilizations), Mathematics of Social Choice (social decision making), and Symmetry (symmetry of wallpaper patterns).
There are also many courses available from other departments. Several of these include Logic, a philosophy course, and Introduction to Computer Programming.
Do you have to take math in college? At Tufts, the answer is yes—with an incredible amount of freedom.
Related: How to Get Into Tufts
What is the Easiest Math in College – Continued
University of Georgia
Math-centric Distribution Requirements: One math Foundation course and one Quantitative Reasoning course.
To satisfy the Foundation requirement, students can choose from thirteen different math courses. These include Introduction to Mathematical Modeling, Precalculus, Introductory Statistics, and several calculus options.
For the Quantitative Reasoning course, students can choose from courses in physics, philosophy, and anthropology, to name a few. Accordingly, they might choose to dive into The Art and Science of Asking Questions or Strategic Visual Thinking.
Related: How to Get Into UGA
University of Michigan
Math-centric Distribution Requirements: Quantitative Reasoning requirement (either one “QR/1” course or two “QR/2” courses). In addition, students must take courses in three out of five distribution areas. This could include one or more math courses if students so choose.
At Michigan, calculus is typically the introductory math course. There is also Data, Functions, and Graphs, which is described as “a preparatory class to the calculus sequences and as a class for students who are interested in strengthening their math skills.”
If students only intend to take math to satisfy degree requirements, a wide range of courses are available. These include Computing’s Impact on Justice (only requires basic algebra) and Introduction to Modeling Political Processes (includes minimal algebra). The Cosmos Through the Constellations only requires a basic math/science background.
Related: How to Get into Michigan
Math-centric Distribution Requirements: 3 Mathematics and Natural Science courses, one of which must be a lab.
Students could opt to take two math courses in addition to the required lab course. They could also choose to take one math course and one additional science course, or two additional science courses. (Translation: you could possibly avoid math altogether). Foundational math options include Probability and Statistical Inference as well as Survey of Calculus.
Otherwise, to satisfy this requirement, students can choose from courses in myriad departments. These include anthropology, chemistry, and psychology. As such, Mind and Brain, Introductory Astrology, and Introduction to Biological Anthropology are several examples of past offerings.
Related: How to Get Into Vanderbilt
What is the Easiest Math in College – Final Thoughts
College courses will feel the most meaningful and relevant when you’re interested not only in learning the material but also in building cross-disciplinary connections. To that end, before choosing a math or quantitative reasoning course, consider which career-related skills feel most practical and important. Even if math isn’t your forte, it’s absolutely possible to find classes that add value to your major of choice.
For more information about math-related topics, check out the following blogs:
Kelsea holds a BA in English with a concentration in Creative Writing from Tufts University, a graduate certificate in College Counseling from UCLA, and is currently pursuing graduate work in writing instruction at Johns Hopkins University.
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